After our trip to the valley of tall wax palm trees, we left to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, where we spent a few days. It was the last stop of our trip through this wonderful country. Although Bogotá was not our favorite place, there were a few spots/events/activities that got us and I am sharing them with you in this post.
When I say it was not our favorite place in general, it is with regards to the fact that it is a huge city with lots of people (7.4 M), pollution, gangsters and dirt, much less authentic than the rest of the country. We did not have a nice experience with taxi’s there (what a surprise right – but not a single one, they all tried to rob us so obviously), we saw practices with trafficking the emerald stones, everybody looked unfriendly and suspicious on the street, and somehow it woke us up from our impression of Colombia being a friendly and beautiful country. On top of that, the first day we got lost in the evening from each other on the main square, Steven’s battery in the phone was empty so I couldn’t call him. He usually did not remember the names of the places we stayed in Colombia but here he luckily did as the name had something in common with one of his favorite old-timer so we found each other later home. 😀 But in general, we did not feel safe there.
On the other hand, it is a capital that often brings similar problems almost everywhere you go. It could also be that we felt sadness from leaving the country soon which attracted some bad vibes, who knows? Let me know in the comments how you felt there! Nevertheless, it was good to be there and experience it. And there is a part of the city, La Candelaria, which is relatively safe during the day and fine to stay in and has a lot to offer. Most of Bogotá’s highlights are situated there. And so if you go, you may probably be advised often to stay there, as we did. So now, five years after, I finally share with you the last parts of our Colombia trip in photos and tips: here are my top 10 things to see and do in Bogotá. Enjoy!
10 Things to See and Do in Bogotá
1. Discover the colonial charm of La Candelaria, its street art, and bohemian life
Personally, this was our favorite part of Bogotá. La Candelaria is a cultural epicenter of the city where you can admire well-preserved colonial houses. There is a lot of colorful street art decorating the walls too. Our hotel Casa de la Vega was within walking distance, so we spent most of our time there just walking the streets and taking pictures.
2. Visit the Gold Museum (El Museo del Oro del Banco de la República)
Interested to know more about Colombia’s Eldorado myths? The Gold Museum in Bogotá will walk you through the largest pre-Hispanic gold collection and the Colombian cultural heritage, showing some mesmerizing gold creations, ceramics, and other interesting pieces found. More info here.
3. Feel the past at Plaza Bolívar
Plaza Bolívar is a typical central square of a colonial town around which, according to the Spanish tradition, important religious and civil buildings such as a cathedral, Mayor’s office, Congress, shopping galleries, or the first jail of the city, were built. Some buildings remained in their original function, some were destroyed or moved. Nowadays this square is a meeting point for people, various political and cultural reunions, demonstrations, and a must-see place for all people visiting the city. But hundreds of years ago, it was also a place of execution where various national heroes were shot, where the proclamations of new Spanish monarchs or viceroys were held, and where bullfights and other cultural events took place.
4. Taste the typical street food
Discover how the typical buñuelos or arepas taste or what are the famous Mick Jagger waffles. We took a food tour where a local guide took us to a few places to try some of the most typical local food. The most amusing part was when we entered L’Aldea Nicho Cultural and participated in “Pedaleate tu jugo” where each of us could choose a type of fruit juice, sit on an old bike with a mixer in front of our face and start to cycle in order to put it into work! 😀 (Not sure if it is still currently on though.)
5. Montserrate Hill
Take a funicular or cable car to the top of the Montserrate hill which overlooks Bogotá from 3,152 m above sea level and therefore offers a splendid view of this vas capital. You can also visit the sanctuary which is a mecca for pilgrims but we personally skipped for its overcrowding that day. You can also walk up on your own, but we were informed by our hotel that knife-point muggings occur on the path. More info here.
6. Visit the National Sanctuary of our Lady of Carmen
In the historic center of Bogotá, Candelaria, you will find a Catholic temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the name of Carmen. It was built by Giovanni Salesian Buscaglione and has Florentine Gothic, Byzantine and Arabic features. Today is classified as a national monument and is impressive inside.
7. Where to eat
We had the Colombian unofficial national dish Bandeja Paisa in vegetarian version (stewed red beans with fried egg, fried banana, and avocado) in La Puerta Falsa in the historical heart and loved the vegetarian choices in Quinoa y Amaranto.
8. Drink coffee at Arte y Pasión Café Presidencial
This was such a lovely coffee bar in Calle 10 in the historical city center, just a few steps from Plaza Bolívar. Here you can taste a specialty coffee from the country prepared to achieve its best quality, while they buy it from the coffee growers for fair prices. The interior is very cool and for coffee lovers, this place offers a great experience: not only their coffee is so good, but you can experience different methods of coffee preparation!
9. Dance Salsa in Casa Quiebra Canto
We knew nothing about the club scene of the city, yet we just bumped into the best salsa bar we could have imagined. I don’t remember if the kind older man in our hotel recommended us this place or whether we just consulted some locals in the streets but we ended up in Quiebra de Canto. That night was a live salsa with a great ambiance and we had a wonderful time! I think there were only locals, it seemed to me at first sight that we were the only foreigners. There is a dance floor in front of the small stage but also a balcony on the above floor where you can see the musicians on the stage from above. We had a few drinks and were dancing and after that, I just remember Steven had to carry me partly to the hotel! 😀 We had a trip planned the day after, otherwise we would have stayed much longer!
10. Day trip to Villa de Lleyva
Take a bus to Villa de Lleyva, a well-preserved lovely white colonial town near Bogotá. When I say near, I mean from a Colombian perspective – one way by bus takes approx. 3 hours so make sure you leave early enough to have enough time to hang around the lovely street of the town.